Turkey31 July 2008
Provincial newspaper editor free after being held for 109 days
A criminal court in Gerger, in the southeastern province of Adiyaman, yesterday ordered the release of Haci Bogatekin, the editor of the local fortnightly Gerger Firat, who had been held since 13 April. He is still charged with trying to influence the course of a trial and with insulting and defaming local prosecutor Sadullah Ovacikli.
It was Ovacikli who initiated legal proceedings against Bogatekin after he published an article in January condemning the failure of the authorities to react to a religious community’s growing influence.
“We are relieved by Bogatekin’s release as the charges against him offered no grounds for holding him,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Bogatekin is not a criminal and his detention looked more like a reprisal than a sound judicial decision.”
The court’s new president, judge Abdullah Günakin, decided to put an end to Bogatekin’s pre-trial detention right at the outset of yesterday’s hearing. The same court had ruled on 30 May and again on 30 June that he would have to be detained because he could otherwise try to flee, tamper with evidence or pressure the prosecution witnesses (who are police officers).
Bogatekin’s outspoken fortnightly is the only newspaper in Gerger (a town of about 4,000 inhabitants). He has set himself the goal of combatting the growing vitality of Islamist organisations in the region and the “retreat of republican values.” He has been sued or prosecuted about 90 times but in most cases was acquitted.
In a 4 January editorial entitled “Feto and Apo” about rivalry between religious groups and Kurdish separatists for popular support, he accused the Turkish army - seen by Turks as the guardian of the republic’s secular values - of abandoning the towns to the influence of the religious communities. He was summoned by the judicial authorities a few days later and was placed in pre-trial detention on 13 April.
Previous releases about this case